1. Letters to the Editor

Wednesday's letters: Visit Florida more than pays for itself

Tourism payback | April 16

Visit Florida is a wise investment

As a small business owner of Mise en Place, former chair of Visit Florida and the current chair-elect of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, I benchmark success on data, and the data shows that Visit Florida's success is worth the investment.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, tourism is growing faster than the U.S. economy. A key ingredient to the success of tourism in our state is Visit Florida's marketing efforts, which data demonstrates is working:

• Tourism is Florida's top economic driver. In 2016, out-of-state visitors were responsible for spending nearly $112 billion and in 2018, 126.1 million visitors came to Florida. This is crucial considering every 78 visitors equals one Florida job. In the last four years, 243 hotels and 4,500 restaurants opened in Florida.

• Visit Florida is a smart investment. Every $1 invested in Visit Florida yields $2.15 in return. Tourism also helps to keep Florida's taxes low, saving every Florida household $1,549 a year in taxes. When Visit Florida was funded at $25 million, visitation stagnated below 84 million visitors; when funded at $54 million to $63 million, visitation increased to 94 million annually, and when funded at $76 million, Florida saw a record number 126.1 million visitors.

• Visit Florida is there during our most vulnerable times. The agency is a committed partner in all of Florida's 67 counties, but targets support for communities that have been impacted by hurricanes and environmental disasters when they need it most.

Tourism has created growth for our company, propelling us from a restaurant to a small hospitality company. This month we will open a new operation on Pass-a-Grille employing 50 new staff members. It's an honor to be a hospitality tourism employer in Florida, and I hope our legislators will continue to invest in this job creator.

Maryann Ferenc, Tampa

The writer is chair-elect of Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

Seats are taken | April 16

Why were benches cleared?

I have worked in downtown Tampa for more than 30 years, and as I was traveling from my building to get food on a Friday, I was amazed to see that the benches in Lykes Park had been removed, and in their place stood planters. If the benches were being refurbished — and not just removed to remove the homeless — why would they install planters with plants in them in the time it takes to refurbish the benches? It just seems like this coincided with the Women's Final Four and an effort to make the area "more presentable." I hope I am wrong.

Lee Casteris, Tampa

What Ilhan Omar said, in context | April 16

Many words would fit

"Some people did something" (take your pick) evil, heinous, monstorous, ungodly, wicked …

James J. Harkins IV, Sun City Center

Redacted Mueller report | April 16

It will never please critics

Even with redactions, the Mueller report, to be released on Thursday by Attorney General William Barr, will contain some information bad for President Donald Trump. But I'm sure it will not be enough to satisfy the left, who will predictably blame Barr for censoring any really bad stuff.

Eric Greenbaum, Tampa